Ryan Ehrlich, known to many who frequent downtown Nevada City as “Garlic” with his ever-present bunny ears and boom box, died Tuesday morning after falling out of a tree.
A woman, who was not being identified, reportedly had driven out to the area of Champion Road and Old Downieville Highway just before midnight Monday when she heard a commotion, said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal.
“She heard hollering, like a baby bear or baby animal, then she heard breaking branches,” Royal said. “She turned on her headlights and saw a man lying in a fetal position on the ground.”
Ehrlich reportedly told her he had been sleeping in the tree and fell.
“He was acting bizarre,” Royal said. “She asked him if he was OK.”
Ehrlich reportedly fell on the hood of her vehicle, then reached in through the window and grabbed the keys out of the ignition.
He then apparently got into the vehicle and sat on the woman’s lap, asking her for a hug and asking for help.
The woman told deputies she tried to call 911 but had a bad cell phone connection; Ehrlich reportedly took her phone and threw it.
At some point, the woman said, Ehrlich put his arms around her and then bit her on the arm.
“She started screaming, and then he went limp,” Royal said.
“She thought he was faking it.”
The woman managed to push Ehrlich out of her vehicle and drove back to Nevada City for help.
Deputies responded to the scene, but Ehrlich, 37, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
His cause of death is unknown, pending autopsy and toxicology results.
Those who grew up with Ehrlich remember him as extremely creative and a talented cook.
“He was quite the artist,” said Stephanie Levesque, who still owns a hip-hop album he self-produced a number of years ago. “Unfortunately, he slowly degraded … You could definitely call him clairvoyant in some ways.”
Many locals cited the “spiritual insights” Ehrlich would share with them.
“When he was in the right space, he would give really profound descriptions of how the world worked,” said local musician Chad Conner Crow.
“I really enjoyed hearing what he had to say. He was really insightful, a very endearing character.”
Downtown Nevada City resident Alexis Gandara said her 6-year-old daughter still treasures something Ehrlich said to her one morning.
“He said, ‘Hi, little girl, I want you to know something — you’ve got to always follow your dream,’” Gandara recalled.
“She kept that forever … It was super-simple, but super-magical.”
Although Ehrlich often seemed to be talking to himself, it “wasn’t just word salad,” Gandara noted, adding,
“He was a pretty intelligent guy. You just had to tune in.”
Ehrlich was a mystery to everyone, said longtime friend Mellow, adding, “That was his persona. He was an oracle … He became an esoteric icon.”
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.